What do Christina Dior, Ralph Lauren, and Michael Kors all have in common? The craftsmanship, visionary, and creativity of Kate Wasserbach. After working at these fashion houses for several years, learning from the greats and helping to pioneer the future of the industry, Kate developed her own style, touch and mark that ultimately manifested into her own brand, Abel Honor New York.

Known for yielding one-of-a-kind pieces boasting the perfect pairing of glamour and grunge which has taken the fashion world by storm, AHNY embodies the city’s downtown culture in a sophisticated manner. AHNY has established a unique identity, allowing all who wear it to step into their power, express themselves through dauntless and cutting-edge fashion, and continue breaking barriers. With Kate at the helm, AHNY has a slew of exciting launches for 2023 until their Black Label and Recwear, as well as new product lanes that will be debuting following much anticipation. A born and bred artist before designer, Kate’s expert knowledge of the industry is truly unparalleled, her approach is distinct — and her brand is most certainly one-to-watch.

How did your love and passion for fashion begin?

KW: I consider myself an artist before I consider myself a designer. With that being said, I have had a pencil in my hand since before I can remember. My significant love for drawing and painting certainly made an impact with my family members, as they had encouraged this talent since the beginning. My Nini would save her dry-cleaning cardboard slots and collect them for me to paint and draw on as if they were canvases. My fondest memories stem from weekly visits to her house to create on “canvas” as if I were making magic. So, overall, my passion begins at home, but my love for fashion started when I was in the fifth grade when I realized the juxtaposition of an outfit was similar to the juxtaposition of a fine arts composition. Expression through the physical dimension — like clothing — is as influential as it is through song, poetry, dance, and craft. This outlet of expression quickly became my favorite medium. I never looked back.

How did your apprenticeship experience shape your knowledge and inspiration to start your own fashion brand?

KW: I attribute most of my knowledge in the field from my apprenticeships. I cannot stress enough now important it is. Other than shadowing the best talent in the industry — how they create, how they relate, and how they execute — I took a piece from each company’s brand DNA and leveraged it into AHNY (Abel Honor New York.)  I took the importance of lifestyle from Ralph Lauren, refinement from Dior Couture, and pragmatism and accessibility from Michael Kors.

How did you turn this passion into a fashion brand?

KW: Both of my parents are entrepreneurs, so it is in my blood! While they are both in their 60s, and still work, they never see the “need” to retire. How cool is that statement? “I don’t find the need to retire” …  Most work their whole lives to retire, retiring is a luxury! But with my parents, they enjoy what they do so much that they don’t find retiring “necessary.” That is an inspiration to me. I want to grow old with Abel Honor, and never retire!

What does the name “Abel Honor” represent?

KW: At first, I didn’t want the brand name associated with my personal name. Throughout my — already — 11 years in the fashion industry before starting AHNY, I had built a name for myself through networking, apprenticeships, work, etc. I wanted AHNY to have its own take at the world, to see there and who it ended up with. So, when I was thinking of a name, above all, I wanted it to be strong. I made a mind map of subjects that meant strength to me — which where characteristics that were instilled in me from a young age from my parents. A loyal person is strength — someone who is willing and able. An honorable person is strength — someone who is just, and cultured. So, I took Able from the first map, and Honor from the second. I loved the sound of it — it sounded strong and reliable. Before my grandfather passed in 2018, I told him I was making “our” dream a reality and starting my own company. After I told him the name, he said “add New York to the end… that will be the part of the brand name that is ‘you’” (As he would love to have the brand name be Kate Wasserbach). I was born and raised in New York, so it was an ode to the state that is me/us through and through. So, I added New York and changed Able to the name Abel from the biblical context — Abel was the “good brother.” It all came together so beautifully. I love the name Abel Honor New York.

Where does the inspiration for the collections come from?

KW: You will find irony in all work I create. I like to pair rhetorical concepts; I think it creates interest and suspense. Season one was inspired by the contrast between faith and humanity — God and war. Angels are a symbol of guidance and peace, while war is a symbol of conflict and aggression. You will find a lot of military lines and design details, but you will also find a lot of beautifully draped delicates and angelic prints. An Abel Honor outfit never looked so questionable but so certain at the same time.

When I started season two, AVANT-CONTENTION, I wanted to find a theme that would flex our paradox typicality. I wanted to challenge the brand DNA of gallant with grace. So, I found the most provocative subculture to ever hit the creative industry…  the punk movement.

My main muse for this season was Johnny Rotten, the King of Punk. Johnny’s rebellious image mixed with his everlasting ability to stand out seemed like the perfect challenge.  The true obstacle was, how do I make something so rotten become so desirable? After some research, I found out that the two themes aren’t that different. If one peels back the layers of the hardcore movement, it very much so relates to AHNY’s exclusive and sophisticated flare. There is something very high-end about the whole genre. Punk clothing was initially handmade, and never mass-produced. The movement defines sustainable luxury. I love the idea that there are definite rules in how you express the punk fashion and lifestyle…. when the whole idea of punk is to not follow rules. What a beautiful irony. This is when I realized that this inspiration was perfect for AHS2.

You will find prints in AHS2 that play with the punk aesthetic. With quotes like “reject the mainstream” on some RecWear pieces, and bold contrasted plaids seen on our Black Label pieces. The design team incorporated personal AHNY touches to the prints; like finding our brand name hidden within the plaids, or flower bouquet print overlays.  It all came together so beautifully. Rock On.

What are your favorite moments when designing a collection?

KW: Ah, this is a very tough one for me. Each design process is such an important part of the end-result, no matter how big or small. But I think my favorite part — the part I get lost in creation — is designing and making the prints and print repeats for the season. It is so fun and liberating for me, all the while mentally draining. It’s like I get a runner’s high after. I am so exhausted, but so satisfied at the same time. What makes AHNY so special is that I make our own prints, which is not common for my competitors or just companies alike in the industry. Most prints are outsourced or bought from suppliers.

What do you want people to think of when they think of “Abel Honor?”

KW: I want them to think that we are trustworthy. I feel that is a trait that is — unfortunately — not held to the standard it should in our industry. These days, there is so much being thrown at us. Consumers expect to be disappointed more often than satisfied in their product. The reason is because quality has been pushed to the waist side. Consumers have been overly saturated with such abysmal product that the likelihood of them being content (let alone happy) with their purchase is improbable. When we — at AHNY — say that no design detail is overlooked, our fabric is thoughtfully sought after, and there is not one part of our design process that is misleading to the consumer. We value truth, loyalty, and sincerity over all at AHNY. The product will reflect that, the rest will come.

How do you want people to feel when they wear “Abel Honor?”

KW: Empowered.

What is your creative process from ideation to execution when designing a new collection?

KW: Oh man, this is hard explanation to abridge. To quickly summarize, the design process goes from concept, to print research, to fabric and trim sourcing, to sketching, to technical drawings, to print repeat design, to tech packs, to proto review, to fittings, to photoshoot, to inventory, to market week! And a bunch in-between!

What are 3 words to describe the brand?

KW: Exclusive, Consistent, Brave.

What do you see Abel Honor becoming in the years to come?

KW: I see AHNY becoming more involved in couturism and continuing creating assets in not just fashion but in collaboration with other mediums and creatives. I plan to continue to obey by our dream of creating a lifestyle through the Abel Honor New York lens. I also am looking forward to building our philanthropic efforts through our charity Abel’s Honor as our brand develops.

How did you choose to collaborate with Geri for your wedding dress?

KW: To be honest, if I was not physically making my dress myself — which I planned to, initially — she was the only person I would trust! Knowing her skills and knowledge, I knew I was in the best of hands. It was an extremely transformative experience in my career to work with her — and she wanted to work with me! Geri and her team are true savants in our craft.

Did you have any “must-have” details that you shared with Geri when designing the dress?

KW: Actually, Geri took my full design/sketch that I provided in our first meeting and made it to fruition — with little to no change. She entirely trusted my vision, which was super heartening for me. Geri and her team made my dream wedding dress, and that is an experience that was so personal for me as a bride, but also as a creative. There is nothing more special in this field than when two creatives create… oh the places they’ll go.